Wave at the local hero pushing past you in his chariot

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Macarthur's local hero Paul Nunnari
Macarthur’s local hero Paul Nunnari after winning silver in the men’s 4×100 metre relay at the Sydney 2000 Games.

Paul Nunnari is our very own local hero.

Once a year for the past decade he has been climbing in his chariot – some will say it’s a sport wheelchair – and push his way to several locals schools to raise awareness of the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur.

It is one of the most unusual charity events imaginable, pushing a wheelchair for more than 60 kilometres – a challenge most ordinary mortals would baulk at.

But not this guy.

Paul Nunnari laughs gently when I ask him if there are any “heartbreak hills’’ on his route from Campbelltown to Appin, Camden and back to Campbelltown.

“I am fine, I will be ready for it,’’ he says of this year’s “Push’’, which is on this Friday, September 1.

Four years ago Nunnari wore a Superman suit to take part in a show called Australia’s Got Talent.

Viewers were gobsmacked to see this guy in a wheelchair flying through the air as part of his act.

But nobody who knows him back in Macarthur would have been surprised.

If you have ever been close to Paul Nunnari, check out the guns on his forearms.

Thinking about it, with those arms maybe he should have gone dressed as another classic super hero, Popeye.

Paul "Superman'' Nunnari
Paul “Superman” Nunnari all set for his appearance on Australia’s Got Talent in 2013.

In any case Paul “Superman’’ Nunnari made the grand final, but more importantly achieved his main aim, which was to inspire others to have a go.

Which is what he seeks to do every year in the Bob Jane T-Marts Paul Nunnari Wheelchair Push.

There is a name change this year, he tells me.

“It will be Fred’s Push,’’ Nunnari says, and explains that it’s in honour of the founder of the 24 Hour Walk Against Cancer, Fred Borg, who died suddenly just before last Christmas.

“I like the idea that I will be pushing and Fred will be there in spirit encouraging me on,’’ Nunnari said.

In 2006, a year after he had taken over the running of the 24 Hour fundraiser, Fred Borg approached Paul Nunnari and invited him to take part.

Nunnari, who was at the end of his athletics career, jumped at the chance, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Fred was so passionate about this great community cause,’’ Nunnari said.

“He really believed that what we were doing was helping the community, that it was making a difference, and I think he was right.

“And I thought that from this year this will be Fred’s Push.’’

Businessman and Campbelltown councillor Warren Morrison, who has elected 24 Hour chairman after Fred Borg’s passing, agrees.

Nunnari enters a school in a previous Push event.
Nunnari enters a school in a previous Push event. Behind him is the late Fred Borg in a green 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur shirt.

“We are continuing the tradition started by our founder Fred Borg and it’s wonderful to see that Paul Nunnari wants to call this year’s effort Fred’s Push.

“We are grateful to Paul Nunnari for this fantastic contribution,’’ Mr Morrison said.

Paul Nunnari, who is now 44 years old, was confined to a wheelchair at the age of 11 after he was hit by a car.

But he became determined to never allow his disability to get in the way of doing anything.

He won a silver medal at the 2000 Paralympic Games but also represented Australia four years earlier in Atlanta and again in Athens in 2004.

Nunnari has also been a strong advocate for disability services and sport and in 2006 he got stuck into Virgin Airlines for making carers pay for accompanying wheelchair passengers.

Who else but a super hero would take on a big corporation and win.

This Friday morning Paul Nunnari won’t need a Superman – or Popeye – costume, but he will still be received like a hero at the local schools he will visit as part of Fred’s Push.

He will start at Blaxland Road from 8am at the Bob Jane T-Mart owned by Brad and Rebecca Purcell, the long time naming rights sponsors of the Push.

Led by a police escort and followed by a convoy of supporters, our hero will then make his way to St Peter’s Anglican School, followed by Thomas Reddall High School in Ambarvale, Appin Public School, John Therry Catholic High School in Rosemeadow, St Paul’s Catholic School in Camden, Magdalene Catholic High School at Smeaton Grange and Beverley Park special school.

“I love training anyway but I do get into a regime before the Push, so I am ready for it,’’ Nunnari said.

Nunnari speaking to students
Nunnari speaking to students as part of the annual Push for 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur.

And while he loves that the itinerary includes the schools he attended as a youngster, St Paul’s and John Therry, Nunnari says he particularly looks forward to the interaction with the teachers and students.

“My favourite part is hearing students talk about their personal experiences with cancer and how it affected their lives,’’ Nunnari said.

“I am also interested to hear what they have done themselves to support the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer.’’

Fred’s Push this year will climax along Queen Street, Campbelltown where Nunnari and his convoy will drop in to see supporters such as Kings Charcoal Chicken, Bar Centrale On Queen, ANZ Bank, Campbelltown Mall and McDonalds.

The man in the chariot pushing past may not be wearing a cape but give him a wave anyway because it’s the least you can do for a local hero.

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